January 9, 2013

The big decision

Kevin McCarthy

Whenever a student/athlete signs a letter-of-intent, the message boards come alive with thumbs up/thumbs down 'votes' of approval or disparagement.

Yet other than the player, his family, the college coaches (sometimes) and a few others, the litany of reasons for the choices are never known.

Sure, the recruits state their rationales and sometimes it's true or partially complete but there are so many more times where the full-on explanation will never become publicly known.

So offering an opinion about any college/basketball program choice is not usually based on all the factors that were actually considered in the decision-making process. Heck, more often than not it's based on the message board poster's projected level of that player's basketball potential, period.

So let's make all this somewhat concrete, three times over.

Greg Allen came out of Eureka High with most aficionados pegging him at a mid-major talent level.

He gave a verbal to Idaho but then demurred and, after signing a letter-of-intent with Creighton, he was released from it before school began. Allen then went to Navarro College in Texas for two years where he played one season as a sixth man and his sophomore go-around as a starter before snagging a scholarship offer from USC Coach Kevin O'Neil.

As a Trojan junior, he played in 26 games, started eight and averaged 21 minutes a contest.

In 15 games so far this season, Allen has seen action in seven, averaging 7.7 minutes per outing due to USC adding talent to its backcourt during the off-season.

Granted, we can suppose that Allen is desiring greater playing time -- that's a natural inclination and not any sort of stretch of the imagination. That may be causing him some unhappiness.

But off the court, he will eventually have a degree from USC and be part of the Trojan alumni base which could pay off handsomely come the rest of his life. He can also rightly claim to being a Pac-12 basketball player.

So was Allen's choice of USC a good or bad one? Is being a USC grad worth less playing time than desired? Again, we will never really know what factors led to his decision but we do know it was his to ultimately decide.

How about Julian Welch?

He graduated from Franklin High and signed with UC Davis of the Big West Conference where he was named Freshman of the Year for his 2009-2010 season. Then Welch decided to depart from Davis and transferred to Yuba College. After a season there, he was named the Bay Valley Conference Most Valuable Player as well as a member of the California All State team.

Welch's next destination was Big 10 Conference member Minnesota, to play for Coach Tubby Smith. This obviously was a major jump up in calibre of play from his Big West days.

As a junior, he averaged 9.5 points and 2.4 rebound per outing on 47% overall shooting and became one of just seven Minnesota players to ever have 300 points and 100 assists in a season. Welch also shot .438 from three-point range, the third-highest single-season percentage in Gopher program history. His assist-to-turnover ration was 105/82 and he finished third on the team with 38 steals. In 36 games, Welch made 21 starts and averaged 24.7 minutes per contest.

This year, it's been a different story: 15 games, no starts and 14.7 minutes each time out. Welch is currently shooting 35% and 25% respectively with 3.7 points and 1.9 rebound a game averages. His assist-to-turnover ration stands at 27/12.

Again, any competitor wishes he was playing more but Welch currently possesses an undergraduate degree in business and marketing education and is now enrolled in a Master of Education - Applied Kinesiology program.

Good? Bad? Mixed?

Again, a judgment all depends on what did Welch want to achieve on and off the court during his two years in Minneapolis/St. Paul. Like Allen, he likely wishes for greater court time but he also looks set up for the next step in his life.

Next, let's look at Palma High senior Noah Allen. Since he is a high school senior, this one requires a certain amount of projection.

He and Harvard were to be an item before the dollars made no sense and now he finds himself set to attend UCLA and play basketball there. Not a bad consolation prize, eh?

A Bruin diploma isn't the parchment equivalent of chopped liver and, like with USC, the UCLA alumni network is an expansive and beneficial one once basketball is a memory.

With UCLA hoops, it's impossible to determine what roster competition Allen will be facing next season as Coach Ben Howland's incoming class of recruits is not complete plus it's unknown which present Bruins will go pro or move on elsewhere. It's not even known if Howland himself will be back. Senior point Larry Drew will graduate but the fates of freshmen backcourters Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad are presently unknown. Norman Powell will be a junior at the two spot. If all with eligibility return (an unlikely prospect), Allen will sit more than he plays as a freshman.

Rather than any sort of one-and-done, Allen looks to be a four-year college student-athlete. He's athletic and skilled so he very well may get solid playing time early if enough talent departs or he may need to bide his time to some degree and work his way into the rotation. The UCLA level may be a tad high for his potential but time will tell us that.

So it pretty difficult to cast a yea or nay regarding Allen. There's no doubt about the school and future benefits. On the basketball court, we'll soon find out. But, as always, we really don't know what went into his decision.